Scientists discover oldest stone tool ever found in Turkey

December 23, 2014
Scientists discover oldest stone tool ever found in Turkey

Scientists have discovered the oldest recorded stone tool ever to be found in Turkey, revealing that humans passed through the gateway from Asia to Europe much earlier than previously thought, approximately 1.2 million years ago.

According to research published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, the chance find of a humanly-worked quartzite flake, in ancient deposits of the river Gediz, in western Turkey, provides a major new insight into when and how dispersed out of Africa and Asia.

Researchers from Royal Holloway, together with an international team from the UK, Turkey and the Netherlands, used high-precision equipment to date the deposits of the ancient river meander, giving the first accurate timeframe for when humans occupied the area.

Professor Danielle Schreve, from the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, said: "This discovery is critical for establishing the timing and route of early dispersal into Europe. Our research suggests that the flake is the earliest securely-dated artefact from Turkey ever recorded and was dropped on the floodplain by an early hominin well over a million years ago."

The researchers used high-precision radioisotopic dating and palaeomagnetic measurements from lava flows, which both pre-date and post-date the meander, to establish that early humans were present in the area between approximately 1.24 million and 1.17 million years ago. Previously, the oldest hominin fossils in western Turkey were recovered in 2007 at Koçabas, but the dating of these and other stone tool finds were uncertain.

"The flake was an incredibly exciting find", Professor Schreve said. "I had been studying the sediments in the meander bend and my eye was drawn to a pinkish stone on the surface. When I turned it over for a better look, the features of a humanly-struck artefact were immediately apparent.

"By working together with geologists and dating specialists, we have been able to put a secure chronology to this find and shed new light on the behaviour of our most distant ancestors."  

Explore further: Modern humans may have migrated into Austria 43,500 years ago

More information: The paper 'The earliest securely-dated hominin artefact in Anatolia?' is available online:

Related Stories

Modern humans may have migrated into Austria 43,500 years ago

September 23, 2014

A multinational team analysed stone tools recovered during a recent re-excavation of the find site of the Venus of Willendorf in Austria. The authors identified the stone tools as belonging to the Aurignacian culture, generally ...

Stone cutting tools link early humans to prehistoric India

March 25, 2011

Dating of recently discovered artifacts in South India indicates that early humans lived in the region more than a million years ago, and that they used distinct 'Acheulian' stone cutting tools, a new study reports in journal ...

Recommended for you

Meet Savannasaurus, Australia's newest titanosaur

October 21, 2016

The outback region around Winton in central Queensland is arguably Australia's ground zero for giant dinosaur fossils. Here, graziers occasionally stumble across petrified bones on their paddocks, amid the stubbly grass and ...

Early fossil fish from China shows where our jaws came from

October 20, 2016

Where did our jaws come from? The question is more complicated than it seems, because not all jaws are the same. In a new article, published in Science, palaeontologists from China and Sweden trace our jaws back to the extinct ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4.1 / 5 (9) Dec 23, 2014
Opens fresh carton of popcorn & settles in to wait for Creationist flamewar...
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 23, 2014
I'm no Creationist. But I don't know how any surface find could ever be dated. *If* they dug down into dated river deposits, maybe. But just laying there on the surface of an old, dated meander? Plus, I wish these articles would show more detailed, close up photos of the "worked" stone. I'm not seeing it.
1 / 5 (2) Dec 24, 2014
I've noticed that in such articles almost never is given detailed information on how researchers have determined the age of the found subjects. Somehow do not fit the people who know more about the dating methods and their unreliable results. The reader is not obliged to believe everything that read, even if it is delivered by well known for specialists.
not rated yet Dec 25, 2014
Thanks for providing me with something to do during my current bout of insomnia. I'd read a print article about the various methods archaeologists use to date inorganic materials like metals, ceramics, and stone. I found an overview that isn't locked behind a paywall: http://www.sourci...h08.htm. I agree the article needs a better photograph; this does look a little like a scraper.
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (1) Dec 26, 2014
Researchers are able to date human artifacts by dating a radioactive isotope of carbon.
Radioactive decay is a constant, and mathematically predictable (and easily testable) phenomenon.

But you may ask, "What reference point are they using?" or "if radioactive decay is constant, how is there any radioactive carbon left for them to even measure?"

The answer is the nitrogen in our atmosphere.
Nitrogen has 7 protons and 7 neutrons. Every now and then radiation from space creates a neutron in our atmosphere. That neutron sometimes then combines with the nucleus of a nitrogen atom, which then pushes out one of the protons, leaving a nucleus of 6 protons and 8 neutrons, Carbon 14.

So because of the nitrogen in the atmosphere interacting with outer space, a constant rain of newly formed radioactive carbon is falling on us. That carbon is also incorporated into biological systems as well.

From that there you can make all sorts of measurements with comparative data
5 / 5 (1) Dec 29, 2014


I've noticed that in such articles almost never is given detailed information on how researchers have determined the age of the found subjects. Somehow do not fit the people who know more about the dating methods and their unreliable results. ...

These summary articles necessarily leave out many details, such as the dating method.

The journal article normally identifies the technique used in dating. For durations as long as 1.2 million years, thermoluminescence is probably used. (see Wikipedia) The object appears to contain quartz. So the object itself can be measured. Thermoluminescence starts its clock from heating or exposure to sunshine, so anytime the object is washed up on shore, the clock is restarted. That said, it might have been buried for 99+% of its lifetime.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.